WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday tightened emissions standards for new gas-powered lawn mowers, weed trimmers and boat engines, reducing the amount of smog-causing pollution these motors will be allowed to emit.
In adopting long-delayed rules that will require small gas engines to have catalytic converters like those that have been installed in cars since 1975, the Bush administration overruled the initial objections of both engine manufacturers and their GOP allies in Congress, who argued that installing the devices in small engines could pose a fire threat.
The new regulations will take effect in 2010 and 2011. Once fully implemented, they will annually eliminate emissions totaling 600,000 tons of hydrocarbons, 130,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 1.5 million tons of carbon monoxide. Both hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, which is linked to respiratory illnesses as well as premature deaths.
Ground-level ozone also contributes to global warming, ranking as the third-biggest greenhouse gas generated by human activity, behind carbon dioxide and methane.
The EPA – which concluded that it is “safe and feasible” to install catalytic converters in small engines – estimates the rule’s public health benefits will outweigh its costs by a ratio of at least 8 to 1, producing public health benefits valued at between $1.6 billion and $4.4 billion annually by 2030. The reduced emissions are estimated to prevent more than 300 premature deaths, 1,700 hospitalizations and 23,000 lost workdays each year.
Environmentalists, who noted that one riding lawn mower emits as much pollution in an hour as 34 cars, said the move would protect the environment and promote energy efficiency. Because spark-ignition engines release as much as 25 percent of their gas unburned in their exhaust, the EPA also estimates the regulations, when fully implemented, will lead to a more efficient combustion process that will save about 190 million gallons of gasoline each year.
The regulations, which originally were scheduled to come out by the end of 2005, apply to lawn and garden equipment of 25 horsepower or less, as well as to golf carts and all gas-powered personal watercraft, and inboard and outboard boat engines.